As Ansel Adams says, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand”. Photographer Pradeep Chandra echoes this sentiment, as he talks about his journey over a cup of hot coffee. His coffee table book on Abhishek Bachchan is just about to hit the bookstores, and he is is now gearing himself for he four other books that he has lined up, including one on the renowned singer, Mahendra Kapoor.
After having released books on the iconic father, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, artist M. F. Hussain and Aamir Khan, he says, “I wanted to do a book on someone still in the middle of his journey. Plus, Abhishek is a genuinely nice person!”. The book ‘Abhishek Bachchan – Style and Substance’ travels through Abhishek’s childhood and transitions into his growth as an actor, covering various phases of his life. Chandra’s friend Mithun Singh has created detailed sketches of some of Abhishek’s most memorable characters, including Guru, Yuva and Dhoom, especially for the book.
Here’s a photojournalist, whose first photograph made it to the Filmfare magazine, when he was barely 9! Yes, 9 years old! His muse then, the ever graceful Waheeda Rehman.
“My brother Shiva Chandra was an Assistant Director, and I used to often visit shoots after school. He used to give me 2 annas for lunch, which was a treat”. That day he casually used his brother’s camera and that picture turned out so interesting that it appeared in Filmfare magazine, soon after, setting him off on his career path, even though he did not realise it then.
“It’s all about composition. One must have an eye for photography” he says. Having worked for all his favourite publications, he feels content that he worked with all the publications that he had always to.
Fascinated by people and what they think, what they dream of, he loves teaching his students to “learn to see” rather than just learning mere technical combinations of shutter speed and aperture. “My favourite camera is always Nikon! Currently I’m using a D800.”
An ardent admirer of Henri Cartier Bresson’s work, he is also all praise for fellow photographer Raghu Rai. “Like Bachchan ji, Raghu is still consistently doing great work!”
Speaking of Mr. Bachchan, he remembers one of his most memorable pics of his, from 1991. “It was a night shoot and I was accompanying the journalist from Illustrated Weekly, where I was working. I took the usual shots and since I wasn’t going to get much more, I stepped out in the garden and sat down. It was past 1 a.m and from afar I could see a silhouette of his, giving the interview. I clicked from where I was sitting, because it looked like a good frame. When we developed the pictures, my editor, Mr. Pritish Nandy looked at it and said ‘Excellent picture. You have already given me the headline for this – AB, A Quiet Comeback’
This was the time when Mr. Bachchan began his second innings as a superstar, having resurrected himself from ‘ground zero’
It might be sheer coincidence, but his other favourite people from the movies, also have names beginning with A. Akshay Kumar is someone he appreciates for his discipline and his warmth. “No matter after how much time we meet, he always remembers me and makes it a point to give me special time to shoot the pics I want. I’ve also enjoyed shooting with Akshaye Khanna, who is very courteous and easygoing.
ON HIS INSPIRATION:
It comes naturally, … how? even I don’t know . May be it’s God’s gift. I will give you an example .Once, I read in the papers that Satya Sai Baba was visiting Mumbai. Now this was just a small news piece and I forgot about it . But, as I was going to my office on my bike, I noticed a girl talking on a public phone booth. Next to her was a small poster of Satya Sai Baba visiting Mumbai .I parked my bike and with a 200 mm zoom and I photographed this girl on the phone against the backdrop of Satya Saibaba. Once the roll was developed, we thought it was a front page picture and used it .
ON KASHMIRI PANDITS:
On another occasion, we had been to Jammu and stayed at an ashram for an art camp .Once the official assignment was over, we met a few Kashmiri Pandits . After going through their story I realized this was a story I would like to revisit . I spoke to my friend Ashok Pandit, and again went to Jammu/Kashmir with my own money. We did a project and exhibited it at Jehangir art Gallery .This story touched me so much that I made many friends. Some day I would like to do a book on them.
ON CHALLENGING SHOOTS:
The 1992 Bombay Riots were very challenging since there was curfew all over and often I used to find myself all alone on the road. I used to feel ‘in case someone throws a bomb on me, what will happen to my family?’ It was a thought that often crossed my mind.
ON RAJESH KHANNA:
I had captured Rajesh Khanna several times on my camera, and he used to be very friendly and co-operative. In fact, on ocassions, even though films had their assigned photographers, he would insist that I also come and click some stills, which they would use for the film’s publicity.
ON HIS WISH LIST:
I would have loved to shoot Madhubala in her younger days. I wish I was present in the days of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Nehru and could have shot the Independence of India . Those days, there wasn’t much security so it must have been fun. Alas ….
I would love to have a special shoot with Shri Ratan Tata. I’ve asked him a couple of times, but no luck . I mean a proper shoot … else, I have shot him at functions many times .
ON THE LOVELIEST WOMEN:
There have been so many… Waheeda Rahman, Nutan, Maharani Gayatri Devi … They are my all time favourites though I shot them much later in life, when they were not so young .
Having shot over 3 million pictures on different cameras, over the years, Pradeep Chandra’s heart still beats for printed images. “Though I love photography, irrespective of the technique, I still love seeing pictures on Bromide paper, rather than on digital screens. I’m partial to Black & Whites, because they always have more depth”
As the coffee gets done and he heads back to work on his forthcoming projects, one is reminded of the quote by his favourite photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson
“It’s an illusion that photographs are made with the camera … They are made with the eye, the heart, the head” – Henri Cartier-Bresson, French Photographer